Oct 13, 2008

praxis, transcendence

Pride in craftsmanship is well explained by saying that to labor is to pray, for conscientious effort to realize an ideal is a kind of fidelity. The craftsman of old did not hurry, because the perfect takes no account of time and shoddy work is a reproach to character. But character itself is an expression of self-control, which does not come of taking the easiest way. Where character forbids self-indulgence, transcendence still hovers around.
richard weaver, ideas have consequences.

it's always difficult to explain why doing something well requires no more and no less than the right amount of time. like faith, any explanation of craft -- in writing, in research, in the making of things -- ends up depending on a kind of intuition that defies reduction. the concept of species-being in marx's humanist writings captures some element of it: free labour in an elevated conception, the activity of free humans that reproduces them as a species because unforced. i read it as activity governed not by the exogenous demands of hunger, shelter, etc, but only by imperatives endogenous to the individual psyche, the internal moral economy. where the motivation is internal, character is the determinant of work and self-control, and is therefore the genesis of, and the standard for, a craft sensibility. saying that craftsmen in days past did not hurry seems a facile oversimplification -- in every age, people sought to work to the standard demanded by internal moral economies developed through individual and social histories. the craftsmen have always been those with strict internal arbiters; there may have been more in the past, or conditions may have favoured their work then, but the craft spirit is with us now as it was with us then. the greeks had a useful work for the act of craft: praxis.

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